Peggy was walking down the street holding her mother’s hand. They walked this same way every Friday afternoon. On those walks, they always walked by this old man sitting on a piece of cardboard. He was leaning back against the brick wall. Peggy always just looked at him, but for some reason this time it seemed different. She said, “Mommy, why does that old man always sit there and look like he is asleep.”
Peggy’s mother replied, “I don’t know, Peggy, but it is none of our business. You just pay him no mind.”
Peggy kept looking at the man as they were walking away. Peggy knew that there were many homeless people and she felt sad for them. However for some reason this time it felt different. It was like she had a connection with this man. Who was he she thought to herself?
For the next three weeks, they walked by the old man. She always looked at him and then she looked at her mother. The look that her mother got on her face each time seemed strange. It seemed like there was something that her mother didn’t want her to know.
The next Friday was different. The man was looking around, unusual because every other Friday it seemed like he was asleep. As they walked by this particular Friday the man stared at Peggy’s mother. She could see that he was about to say something, but Peggy’s mother said, “Hurry Peggy, let’s walk faster.”
Peggy knew there was something about the old man that her mother didn’t want her to know about. It seemed like she was scared of him. Did they know each other? Peggy knew that was highly unlikely.
Judy, Peggy’s mother, was at home sitting at the kitchen table. She was crying as she was sipping on a cup of tea. Peggy walked in and said, “Why are you crying, mommy?”
“Nothing honey, I just had something on my mind.” She sure did as she sat there. Judy got someone to sit with Peggy the next day. She was walking down the street where the old man always was. She stopped in a sandwich shop and ordered a meal to go. Walking outside, she took a deep breath and continued down the street.
Coming to the old man she held out the bag of food and said, “I thought you might want something. How are you doing dad?”
The old man looked up at Judy and said, “Thank you for the food. Why did you decide to stop by today?”
“Peggy has been looking at you every time we walk by. She has no idea who you are. Dad, why did you cheat on mom? She loved you, you know.”
The old man just sat there for a few minutes. Finally, he said, “She told you that, didn’t she? She is the one that filed for divorce. She got everything, the house, the car, and she tossed me out like a piece of trash. Judy, I didn’t cheat on your mother, she cheated on me.”
“I don’t believe you, dad, you are lying. Mom would never have done anything to hurt you. She loved you, she really loved you. Mom told me that you are the one that filed for divorce.”
The old man said, “You lived far away when it happened, Judy. Believe me, your mother was having an affair and she is the one that wanted a divorce.”
Judy replied, “I just can’t believe that mom would do that to you. Why are you lying to me, dad?”
“Go to her, Judy and ask her to tell you the truth. She has been lying to you all these years.”
Judy got up and just had to walk around for the longest time. She needed to collect her thoughts. There is no way that mom would have lied to me. She is my mother. It was just starting to get dark when she showed up at her mother’s house. She knocked on the door and waited for her mother to answer it.
“Why hi Judy! How are you doing?”
“Mom, I need to ask you something and I need you to tell me the truth. Dad told me that you were the one that was having an affair and that you were the one that filed for divorce. Tell me the truth, mother,” Judy wanted to know.
Her mother got up and walked around. “It is true, Judy. I told you differently so that you wouldn’t think bad of me. I’m so sorry.”
“Mom, dad is homeless, he is sleeping and living on the street like a bum. How in the hell could you do that to him? How could you do that to anyone? You have kept this a secret from me for years. I don’t ever want to see you again, you are not the woman that I loved and called mother.” Judy stormed out of the house slamming the door on the way out.
Judy just sat in her car for the longest time. She cried and cried. It seems now her life was a mess and she knew that she had to do something to help her father. Right now it was the most important thing in her life.
The next day was Friday, the day that her and Peggy always walked down the street. Judy went home and just sat in the living room chair for the longest time. She thought to herself, oh dad, I am so sorry. All this time I thought you were the bad one and now I know that it was mom. I don’t know how she could have done that to my dad.
Peggy and Judy went to bed that night. Peggy slept well, but Judy had one of the longest nights of her life. She tossed and turned, then just laid there and stared at the ceiling. The next morning, Judy got up early and started to make breakfast. She called for Peggy to get up and soon she was in the kitchen rubbing her eyes. They ate their breakfast and then Judy said, “I have to tell you something, Peggy. That old man that we see on the street that looks so dirty and nasty. Honey, that man is your grandfather.”
“What! Are you serious, mommy? We have to bring him home. He is my grandpa.”
Judy said, “I know it honey, but I don’t know if he will come. Your grandmother and I hurt him very badly.”
Peggy was crying at the thought of the old man being her grandfather. Peggy said, “He will come, I know he will. Take me to him, mommy.”
It was raining out so Judy and Peggy both put on their raincoats and also Judy carried an umbrella. Judy parked the car. They got out and walked down the street. Peggy saw her grandfather sitting in the rain leaning back against a building. Peggy didn’t know what she would say, but she had to try.
Judy and Peggy walked up to him. Judy said, “Hi dad! I brought Peggy with me. I am so sorry about how mom and I treated you. Mom lied to me and I believed her. I hope you will forgive me, dad.”
He looked up and stared at Judy for the longest time. “You have no idea what you and your mother did to me. How can I forgive anyone that has made me feel so useless like I am trash in your eyes?”
“I know it, dad, I really am so sorry.”
Peggy said, “Grandfather, please come home with us. You should not be living like this.”
He replied, “You are a beautiful little girl. How old are you now?”
“I am almost five grandfather.”
“I can’t child,” he said. “Your mother doesn’t want me.”
Judy replied, “Yes, I do daddy, I really do. I was wrong. Please come home with us.”
He replied, “Look at me. Just look at me. Why would you want me?”
Peggy said, “Stand up grandfather. Please for me stand up.”
Grandfather got to his feet. It was a strain because his bones and muscles were so stiff from years of living on the street. He looked at Peggy and at Judy. “You are both so beautiful,” he said. “Look at me. I am a bum, a homeless bum.”
Peggy said, “hold my hand, grandfather. Just take a hold of it.”
Grandfather reached out to take Peggy’s hand. As their hands touched a surge of energy jolted the two of them. It was like a lightning bolt took over their bodies. Grandfather was shaking as he looked at a peaceful golden glow surround, Peggy. He was sure that he saw a halo over her head. Peggy said in a soft gentle voice, “Close your eyes, grandfather. Do it for me.” As she said those words the rain stopped and the sun was shining brightly. She looked off in the distance and saw the prettiest rainbow.
Grandfather closed his eyes and a peacefulness came over him like he had never felt in his life. He was feeling a gentle soothing warmth that lasted for what seemed like an hour, however, it was only a matter of a few minutes. Peggy took her hand away and stepped back. “Open your eyes, grandfather,” she said.
He took one look at Peggy. The glow surrounding her body looked so peaceful. He then looked at the clothes he was wearing, felt his chin, and rubbed his hand over his head. Grandfather was now clean like he had just taken a shower, his hair was now short and his beard was gone. He was clean shaved. He was now wearing a clean shirt and a new pair of jeans. He moved and felt no stiffness at all. It was like he was a new man. He took one look at Judy and saw the smile coming over her face.
“You look good daddy. Come home with us.”
“Do you really want me?”
Judy said, “Yes, we do. Peggy and I both do.”
Grandfather replied, “Peggy is she really a, you know?”
Peggy took grandfather’s hand, looked up at him and said, “It is just our secret, ok grandfather?” They walked toward the car all feeling that their lives would never be the same.
Larry W Fish (author) from Raleigh on April 11, 2018:
Thank you, Jackie. I like to often have an ending that is surprising. Not always possible to do, but I try. I'm glad you enjoyed the story.
Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on April 11, 2018:
Great story and surprising end!
Larry W Fish (author) from Raleigh on April 09, 2018:
Thank you for your comment, C.E.. I appreciate you putting your spin on the sadness of homelessness. What I really hate is that many people that are homeless are veterans. Those people served this country and the government has just abandoned them. We have people living in multi-million dollar mansions while people are living on the streets. You are right,
we do live in a messed up world.
C E Clark from North Texas on April 09, 2018:
Fortunately most people who divorce do not become homeless, nor do people who are unfaithful to their spouse. If that were true most men would be homeless as would a considerable number of women. I do appreciate that you humanized the old man and his situation. Most people seem to think of homeless people as somehow inhuman, and once a person is dehumanized it's easier to view them in a seriously negative light.
So long as people have such a negative attitude towards people who are down on their luck, the only thing that will change is that the number of homeless people will increase. Once someone becomes homeless it’s extremely hard to get a job because no one wants to hire a homeless person or someone with no address. It’s also difficult to clean up and be presentable for an interview and to be clean and presentable for the first weeks of a job while saving for housing.
Personally, I think everyone should be homeless for about 5 years. It would give them an invaluable education that money can’t buy, and it’s entirly free! No student loans to pay later. You can’t learn some things from a university or any book. You have to experience it. I highly recommend everyone be homeless for 5 years with no appreciable help from anyone, just surviving by their own wits. What an attitude change there would be! Perhaps fewer people would be hell bent on punishing poor people for the purpose of making sure they're good and GD sorry they're poor. People who have never been poor don't seem to realize that being sorry one is poor just goes with the territory. It must be so divine to never have experienced hard times so that one can look down on those who do.
Those who like to call themselves Christians should be aware that Jesus was homeless His entire adult life. Poor people are His favorite people, second only to children. Should think it would be a little uncomfortable meeting Jesus and asking His forgiveness and mercy when He knows a person hates poor people, especially homeless people and always has hated them -- and are now asking Him for something they never had for anyone else -- mercy and forgiveness.
Again, I appreciate your story that humanizes homeless people. They really are humans who have fallen on hard times for many different reasons. They are not all alike. Fewer than 20% off all homeless people have mental or substance abuse issues. Lots more people who do live in houses/apartments have mental and/or substance abuse problems. Many are celebrities that some people look up to and practically worship. Kind of a messed up world we live in isn't it?
Larry W Fish (author) from Raleigh on October 25, 2017:
Thank you for your comment, Audrey. I appreciate your kind words. Yes, homelessness is a sad problem and I think it is ignored by our government.
Audrey Hunt from Idyllwild Ca. on October 25, 2017:
Thank you for this most interesting story. I like your writing and your characters. Homelessness is such a sad problem. It makes me feel bad for all those put in this situation.
Larry W Fish (author) from Raleigh on October 20, 2017:
Thanks Mary! Yes, divorce does have a ripple effect. My main reason for writing this story was to try in a small way to bring attention to the problem of homelessness. I know it is a problem in my city and I know in other cities across the country. I am sure it is in every country in the world. I can not imagine living on the streets but I know it is a reality.
Mary Wickison from Brazil on October 20, 2017:
Families can be so complicated. It always saddens me when I hear of a divorce, as I know it affects more than just two people. When a family breaks up, it has a ripple effect which affects more than we know.
I know this is fiction although I am sure this is played out around the country.
Good story Larry.
Larry W Fish (author) from Raleigh on October 20, 2017:
I am glad that you enjoyed the story, Linda. I will keep in mind about writing a sequel. I am sure I can expand a lot more on those characters.
Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on October 19, 2017:
This is an interesting story, Larry. I enjoyed reading it. I hope you do write a sequel. I'd like to learn more about the characters.
Larry W Fish (author) from Raleigh on October 19, 2017:
Thank you for your comment, FlourishAnyway. In writing fiction I often leave a little leadway in case I want to continue the story. Yes, there could be a lot more there not mentioned yet.
FlourishAnyway from USA on October 19, 2017:
It’ll be an awkward Thanksgiving this year with both parents but at least the father has a home now. Something tells me there’s a lot more to the cheating and his homelessness... .